On the surface, communication, especially with those who are close to us, should be an easy thing to do well, considering we use similar words, gestures, facial expressions and body language. The other person should automatically understand the point we are trying to get across, right? No way! Now add to this the difficulty of trying to communicate when our spouses are deployed. It can be tempting to dump what we want to say into an e-mail that we can’t get back or during a precious phone call home.
Whether your spouse is standing right next to you in the kitchen, or across the world in Iraq, be careful what you say and how you say it. Frequently, misunderstanding the message comes from the interpretation of the message. Therefore, when we communicate with our spouses, we must send a clear message with non-conflicting signals.
First, say what you mean, and mean what you say. You may say something, but your posture, body language, facial expression or tone of voice may conflict with your message. Your spouse is going to receive a mixed message. This is especially true because, by now, you have probably become an expert at reading each other’s signals. So keep in mind, if you are thinking something different from what you mean, it will most likely show.
A second rule of communicating is to use “I” statements. Since you want to keep them from getting the wrong message, this helps you to ensure they understand this is how YOU feel. Make sure the words coming out of your mouth are “I feel this…” or “I feel that…” and not “You always…. These statements usually get you nothing but placing your spouse on the defense.
Another way to avoid a mixed message is to rephrase something that you are unsure of. Do not assume you know what the other person is saying. If you are not sure, ask for clarification. “What do you mean by that?” Getting clarifying about a comment made by your spouse may keep an unintended argument from erupting or at the very least, some unnecessary hurt feelings.
Finally, both of you should be in a calm, rational mood. If there is tension or anger, communication may be limited to anger, blame and defensiveness. It will probably end better if you agree to disagree for that moment and resume the conversation when you have both calmed down.
If you take into account how your spouse will receive the message, communication can be very easy. To do this, you must ensure your message is sent with honesty, clarity and reflects your feelings. If you take the time to develop your own thoughts and feelings in the first place, you will get a response instead of a reaction. And by the same token, a well thought out response on your part, instead of an instantaneous reply, can go a long way to keeping a great connection when your spouse knows you will respond properly as well.